Friday, April 20, 2012

Magnolia Cafe

A bistro has a certain look about it and Magnolia Cafe really looks like a bistro.  It is a small, cozy restaurant with a bar along one side, hanging lights, and simple decoration.  The walls are in shades of brown which I wouldn't normally expect from a bistro or a restaurant named the Magnolia Cafe for that matter although it is simple and does look nice.  The bar and furniture are wood and go with the brown walls.  The menu for a typical bistro is fairly simple as well usually consisting of three or four appetizers, a few salads, and for the entrees a chicken, a pork, a beef, a fish, a pasta, and possibly a vegetarian dish.  While Magnolia Cafe does have a small menu (although a bit larger than your typical bistro menu), it is very definitely not what one would think of when thinking about a bistro menu.  It has many of the typicals that you would find on a bistro menu but they are done more in the way of comfort food than as a bistro.  While it is good, it is also a bit heavier than you would expect from bistro fare.  I went on a Friday night and the place was pretty busy which I took to be a good sign because Fridays and Saturdays are usually the busiest times for a restaurant.  I ended up eating at the bar which was fine because it gave me a good view of the restaurant and the way things flowed and I could see how others might be enjoying their food.  While I was there, things seemed to flow very efficiently and people seemed to be enjoying their dinners.  When my order came, I could see what I thought.  While my appetizer sounded a little unusual to me, it also sounded very good.  I got Pulled Pork Raviolis with Wild Mushrooms, Shaved Manchego Cheese, and Peas in a Porcini Mushroom Sauce.  For an appetizer, the serving size was surprisingly big.  I had never had, or even heard of for that matter, pulled pork being used in ravioli although I suppose it doesn't really matter what you put into the ravioli shells and pulled pork is well liked.  The wild mushrooms seemed mostly to be trumpet mushrooms and were very good.  The mushrooms and sauce brought an earthiness to the dish which went well with the pulled pork raviolis.  As all of the ingredients were rather strongly flavored so any cheese used would also have to be strong but not necessarily sharp so as not to get lost and to contribute positively to the flavor.  Manchego cheese has a pungent flavor that went well with the mushrooms and the raviolis.  It was a good start even if it was pretty big and heavy.

After the heavy appetizer, I knew that I was going to be in trouble by the end of the meal but I didn't let up with my entree.  I had a feeling when ordering it that it was going to be heavy but it looked very good so it had to be ordered.  I ordered a Braised Beef Short Rib with Bacon and Cheddar Mac 'n' Cheese, Onion Rings, Sauteed Spinach, and a Red Wine Reduction Sauce.  This was very good.  The short rib was fork tender, the spinach was still crisp, and how can you go wrong with bacon and cheddar mac and cheese?  The cheese was creamy, it had a lot of very good crumbled bacon and the pasta used was orecchiete which captured more of the cheese sauce than would normal macaroni.  The red wine reduction infused the meat with flavor and while the large onion rings were effectively not much more than a garnish, they were not forgotten.  The coating was crunchy, the onions were moist, and they tasted very good.

After the pulled pork ravioli appetizer and the braised short rib with mac and cheese for my entree, I could very well have finished there.  I did however want to look at the dessert menu and looking is my downfall.  On the dessert menu was one of my favorite desserts, Creme Brulee.  It was served with fresh raspberries and a Vanilla Financier.  Now I am a little bit of a creme brulee connoisseur.  A good creme brulee has to have a good crispy crust over the custard and it takes a little bit of a tap to crack it.  This had a substantial crust with a slight burnt sugar flavor and a nice very creamy custard.  The berries were very fresh and seemed to be at the height of freshness.  I really liked the creme brulee; so much so that to me, the financier was kind of an afterthought.  It wasn't bad, it just didn't excite me.  While the creme brulee was a good finish to a good tasting meal, I did end up leaving the restaurant pretty full.

I liked my dinner here.  The room was cozy, the service was friendly and prompt, and the food was good.  I will know however on a future visit here that the serving sizes are on the large size so unless I am ravenous, I should pay attention to what I order if I don't want to leave waddling.   

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